EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: A 61-year-old woman from Sintet Fula Kunda in Foni Jarrol district, Tuesday told TRRC in its public hearing on Gambia’s former President Yahya Jammeh’s 2009 witch-hunting exercise in Sibanorr that witch-doctors abducted her from her compound and taken to Kanilai where she was forced to drink a concoction that was prepared by Mr Jammeh himself.
Explaining events leading to her abduction and the subsequent sufferings she and others went through during the exercise, Fatou Camara said she was captured by the dreadful witch-doctors during the naming ceremony of her in-law.
The 2009 witch-hunting exercise show the arrest and abduction of more than 1000 people by Mr Jammeh’s hired witch-doctors from Guinea and Casamance and subjected them to forcefully drink unscientific concoction prepared by Mr Jammeh that caused them unconscious with some of them admitting to being witches and wizards.
Many of the abductees died after drinking the concoction while several of them are now living with serious health implications from the portion. The international community criticised Mr Jammeh for applying unscientific medicine on the victims that killed many of them and caused life-time health problems on others who are still alive.
Mrs Camara told the Commission that the witch-hunters, who were wearing red clothes and having mirrors came with soldiers who shielded the entire community and started running after people like animals and beating them.
The mother of nine told the Commission that although she was not chased by the men in uniform but the witch-hunters found her in her compound and took her away. “When they come, they asked me to come out and I asked them where will I be going to, and they said to Kanilai. I asked why and they told me that they want to give me something to drink,” the old woman said.
She said she and others were escorted into a waiting bus in which they found the green boys drumming and she was not told the reason for her abduction.
The exiled ex-president used to mix herbs to produce the substance that he forcefully administer on people he suspected as either witches or wizards in different communities across the country. Many believed that Mr Jammeh conducted the 2009 witch-hunting exercise out of obsession for the death of one of his close relatives who he believed was killed by witches and wizards.
Mrs Camara further explained how they were subjected to inhumane treatment by the witch-doctors and the deprivation of their right to perform their religious obligations by the paramilitary officers who were guarding them. “It was time for the afternoon prayer and when we requested them to allow us to pray, the paramilitary refused us.”
She said at Mr Jammeh’s native village of Kanilai, they were taken to his –Mr Jammeh’s- military camp where their names were written and all their belongings confiscated from them.
Mrs Camara also narrated how small boys, who she said can be the same age mate with her grandchildren stripped them naked and bath them before forcing them to drink the concoction. “This is applied on both men and women. They will strip us naked and bath us,” she said.
She said they will lose consciousness after drinking the portion and they will not know what happened to them and within their surrounding until the following day, saying none of them had performed their Islamic obligatory prayer after the noon prayer on that Monday.
“Before giving us the concoction for the second time, they asked me to tell them the witchcraft activities I have performed, the number of people I killed and those I have charmed. I told them I am a not witch but they said I was lying and if I don’t tell the truth; they will give me something to drink and they will not help me,” Mrs Camara.
She said due to fear, others had to confess to being witches and wizards and had killed people so that they will be released, but she refused to admit and that was why she was kept there until on a Wednesday.
Mrs Camara told the truth-seeking commission that since they drink the portion, many of them have been suffering from life threatening illnesses, saying she have been suffering from high blood, chest pain and stomach ache since she drank the concoction.
Story written by Juldeh Njie